The Book of Nordic Self-Care: Find Peace and Balance Through Seasonal Rituals, Connecting with Nature, Mindfulness Practices, and More, by Elisabeth Carlsson
CICO Books, 9781800652668, 144 pages, October 2023
Beauty, peace, balance, nourishment – this and so much more is what you’ll encounter when you hold The Book of Nordic Self-Care: Find Peace and Balance Through Seasonal Rituals, Connecting with Nature, Mindfulness Practices, and More by Elisabeth Carlsson in your hands. I guarantee you that the experience of engaging with the recommendations and inspiring photographs will seep into your heart and your daily experiences.
Carlsson is a master at bringing to life how to engage in self-care the Nordic way. For those geographically challenged as I sometimes am, the Nordic countries include Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Aland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. These are countries with extreme weather and fluctuations in the amount of sunlight that residents experience annually, yet, “the Nordic countries usually come in the top five happiest countries of the World Happiness Report.”1
The approach to Nordic self-care moves beyond getting cozy with hygge. Yes, it embraces comfort, serenity, friends, and relaxation. But it expands to a holistic way to find balance in a world that is often out of balance. As Elisabeth writes, “self-care is often about balance…”2. It’s about finding joy in everyday things, nourishing one’s self from the inside out, being mindful about what you put into your body and into your head. The Nordic way of living encourages the individual to feel safe and if you feel safe, you can thrive.
There are five focuses in the book: natural health and beauty, nourishing food for all seasons, nature and forest, the home and seasonal living, and a balanced life. Encompassed within these sections is all the reader needs to know to embrace the Nordic way of life. There are recipes for food and beauty regimes. There is a knitting pattern for those who are interested in making a Fair Isle pompom hat! Elisabeth writes of nature foraging – and even includes ways to engage in this in the city. Friluftsliv, or free open-air life? There are many ways to experience this.
Carlsson reminds us that balance (lagom in Swedish) is a key. Balance the rat race with encounters with nature, balance the darkness with light, balance the need to do things quickly with a slowed down coffee break with friends. You get the idea.
Choice is another key. Choose to take care of yourself. This is not selfish, it’s life-affirming. Choose to eat seasonally. Choose nature-based products for make-up and lotions. Notice what you feed your body. Be mindful of the habits you do perpetuate. For those who are seeking a simplified way of life, The Book of the Nordic Self becomes a guide.
One of the sections that resonated with me was on dostadning, or the Swedish art of decluttering that has come to be known as Swedish death cleaning. I am learning to embrace dostadning, as I am now “of a certain age” I look around my house and wonder if my daughters will know why I cherish certain items. Do they know the history and significance of these things? At other times I look around and wonder why I still have items in my life that no longer have to do with who I am now. Dostadning encourages one to “imagine someone else having to clear up your house.”3 It’s not really about death and dying but more about you purging your things before it’s left to someone else. You’ll feel lighter and you’ll save friends and loved ones the challenge of a massive clean out. I’ll focus on doing this to feel lighter and uncluttered and table the death part.
The information in this book is not sugar-coated. Carlsson writes about burnout and the high use of antidepressants in Nordic countries, as well as the Law of Jante, or need to conform or be part of the collective. As she writes, “despite all the benefits of the Nordic countries it’s clear that there are still some things that aren’t perfect, but maybe because of this, we can gain wisdom from how the Nordics manage stress and overwhelm.”4 I appreciate her approach because it introduce readers to the Nordic lifestyle without idealizing it, providing an honest look at the benefits without turning a blind eye to where improvements can be made.
Additionally, this whole book is very visual, and the photographs are amazing – think Ikea on steroids. I became calm just by looking at them. As someone who has yet to visit the Nordic countries, the photos gave me a better understanding of the area’s aesthetic.
Overall, The Book of Nordic Self-Care is a treasure. I highly recommend that you read this book if you are on a self-care. Exploring the practices of another culture is a great way to gain insight into your own life, bringing inspiration about how you might cultivate more self-care in your life. Allow the messages to seep into your life and I’m certain you’ll feel the warmth of the Nordic culture infusing your soul.
Anne Greco is a non-fiction writer who writes about her life experiences and travels with humor, keen observations, and the hope that her words will remind us that “we’re all just walking each other home.” Her book, Serendipity: Chance Pilgrimages, tells the story of Anne encountering her places of power. As she reconnects with herself at each site, Anne also develops a deeper understanding and appreciation of her connection to both the seen and unseen worlds. Learn more about her work here: http://annegrecowriter.com.